Meditation: When the Lord Jesus knocks on the door of your
heart are you ready to answer and receive him (Revelations 3:20)?
The Lord offers each one of us an open door to the kingdom of God,
but we can shut ourselves out if we ignore or reject his offer.
What is the door to the kingdom of heaven? When Jacob fled from
his brother Essau, who wanted to kill him for stealing his
birthright (Genesis 27:41), Jacob sought refuge in the wilderness.
There God pursued him and gave him a vision that both changed his
life and the life of his people. As Jacob slept on a star-lit
hillside God showed him a great ladder or stairway that extended
from earth to heaven. This stairway was filled with a multitude of
angels ascending and descending before the throne of God.
An open door to the throne of God
God opened heaven to Jacob, not only to give him a place of refuge and peace, but to offer him the blessing of dwelling in intimate friendship with the living God. God spoke to Jacob and renewed the promises which he had made to his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac, and now to Jacob and his descendants. God promised not only to bless and protect Jacob, but to make him and his descendants a blessing to all the nations as well. When Jacob awoke he exclaimed: "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven" (Genesis 28:17). God opened a door for Jacob that brought him and his people into a new relationship with the living God.
Jesus is the door to God's kingdom
Jesus proclaimed to his disciples that he came to fulfill the prophetic dream of Jacob in his very own person: "You will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man" (John 1:51). Jesus proclaimed that he is the door (John 10:8-9) and the way (John 14:6) that makes it possible for us to access heaven and God's very throne. But Jesus woefully warned the religious leaders and successors of Jacob that they were shutting the door of God's kingdom not only on themselves but on others as well. The word woe expresses sorrowful pity as well as grief and sadness.Why did Jesus lament and issue such a stern rebuke?
Don't be misled by wrong-headed teachers
Jesus was angry with the religious leaders because they failed to listen to God's word and they misled the people they were supposed to teach and lead in the ways of God. They were blindly leading people to "pharisaism"- to their own ideas, rules, and practices which God did not intend or require - rather than to God's intention and way of life for his people. Jesus also chastised them for their hyprocisy - a hypocrite is an actor or imposter who says one thing but does the opposite. Jesus gave some examples to show how misguided they were in their thinking and practices.
In their zeal to win converts, the religious leaders required unnecessary and burdensome rules and practices which obscured the more important matters of religion, such as love of God and love of neighbor. And at the same time they made exceptions for themselves by devising clever ways to evade binding oaths and solemn promises which they had made to God. The Jews treated an oath made to God as a binding obligation that must not be broken under any circumstance, but the Pharisees found clever ways to evade their obligations when inconvenience got in the way. They forgot that God hears every word we utter (especially our oaths and promises) and he sees the intentions of our heart even before we speak or act.
God's ways and thoughts are different from ours
The scribes and Pharisees preferred their idea of religion to God's idea. They failed to lead others to God because they listened to their own ideas of what is true religion and they failed to understand the true meaning and intention of God's word. Through their own pride and prejudice they blindly shut the door of their own hearts and minds to the truth of God's kingdom.
The prophets of the Old Testament had repeatedly warned God's
people to seek the Lord and to put aside their own thoughts and
ideas of religion in order to hear and understand God's mind and
intentions for his people. The prophet Isaiah wrote,
"Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts... For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:6-9).Seek God's kingdom first
"Lord Jesus, your word is life for me. May I never shut the door to your heavenly kingdom through my stubborn pride or disbelief. Help me to listen to your voice attentively and to conform my life more fully to your word."
This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/